Tucson Electric Power recently recognized local nonprofit Higher Ground for their social impact in the Tucson community.

Higher Ground provides social and emotional support to students in schools all over Tucson by building community and trust..

This is the first year the nonprofit received the Social Impact Award from TEP, coming with the Copper Cactus trophy.

Its just such an honor to get our work recognized after 16 years of doing this in the community. Having started in our living room and now being in the schools and getting to work with the community at this level has been an honor, said Higher Ground CEO Jansen Azarias.

The other nominees included Earn to Learn, Habitat for Humanity Tucson, and Interfaith Community Services.

Azarias said, Were really honored to be part of such a great list of other nonprofits that are doing such great work.

He credits the award to schools like Utterback Middle School, where the impact grows everyday. Like the other sites, Higher Ground staff work with students on whatever they need.

They share whatever theyre going through. Because they dont just go through, My goldfish died. They go through Im now being placed in a group home, or My cousin was murdered, said the Higher Ground Site Director at Utterback Middle School, Cheryl Lopez.

Its building the trust with students that prides the Higher Ground staff, because of the difference it makes in their academics.

Lopez shared one example. There was one young man, his mind was always on his brother, who he hung around with all the time that recently went to jail. And he just came and talked and even asked permission to cry. He cried and said Okay, now I can focus. And when he returned back to us he said, I have As and Bs now, and I was able to concentrate.

Students shared the comfort they have with Higher Ground staff. This year is Giuliana Sainds first year at Utterback Middle School. She had anxiety speaking in front of others, and she spoke in front of the camera for her interview with KGUN9. She said it was after working with Higher Ground staff, she saw a difference in her confidence and her grades.

Ive never had As before, Ive always had Bs. I feel like Utterback has a lot of support for me, Saind said.

The nonprofit also offers resources for families who need support at home so students can have the foundation to succeed. For more, visit higherground.me.

CORRECTION: KGUN9 originally reported the award is $2.2 million. This is the category of the nonprofit by operating budget size.